From Telling White Lies to Achieving Satisfaction

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”White Lies – Why Do People Tell Them?”


Dear Dr. Gelb:

My friend tells white lies. I can understand bending the truth once in a while, but it is such a habit with my friend. Why do people get caught up in these lies?

A: How smart of you to answer your own question by implying that you tell a white lie once in a while. I challenge those who tell white lies to ask themselves why they do so. The answer is likely to touch on the fact that the truth may get a person in trouble, and many people tend to do almost anything to avoid trouble, even to the point of telling a lie.

That’s why I encourage people to think carefully before speaking, and if one chooses to speak the truth, then have the courage to stand by it. There are consequences, some comfortable and some not, when we take a stand. For the most part, however, self respect is likely to keep one making safe, smart choices.

”Achievements – Why am I Never Satisfied?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

Soon I graduate with my Bachelor’s degree. While I attended the program, health challenges caused delay, and it seemed like I would never graduate. Now that it’s almost here, I feel deflated, like I need to achieve something bigger in order to feel satisfied. This is not the first time I’ve achieved a goal and then felt deflated. What will it take to please me?

A: I understand the conflict you describe because it is one I experienced for many years — but after earning two Ph.D.s and a law degree, coupled with personal growth work and professional experience, I believe I have mastered the ambition vs. overachievement” syndrome as I call it.

In this regard, I recently had the privilege of giving a talk on this topic at the “Amazing Women Amazing World Celebration,” in Honolulu, Hawaii. Below is an excerpt from the handout that was offered to participants, and which I hope will be useful here.

“Ambition can be thought of as a hunger to learn, to do, to explore and to make things happen for a good cause and for the love of life. Overachieving is a compulsive behavior borne out of fear, shame and guilt. The fear is of never measuring up, not having enough, not being the best; a fear of being left behind. The overachiever tends to live in dread that “there is not enough time, I’m always too late, the bus will leave without me, the well will dry up before I get there.” For the overachiever, emotions are the enemy. Everything else comes first. “I can’t be tied down or intimate until I do this, or achieve that. I can’t let my emotions get in my way.” Many overachievers forgo a personal life — “it will get in the way of my goals and I’ll miss out” (must keep up with the Joneses, must have a car like theirs, can’t miss a day’s work because I must be able to buy that”).”

“… Keep in mind that who we are is not about what we have or what we can accomplish. Our worth is not determined by our achievements, but by our values, our integrity and our ability to be self-respecting and to treat others respectfully. Then overachievement is a non-issue, as one is free from the fear, guilt, and shame upon which it thrives; and ambition can be enjoyed as a healthy motivator to explore and make things happen for a good cause and for the love of life.”

Congratulations on your achievement. Enjoy.

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

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